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Hunting Africa on a Budget (Page 2)

With some imagination, flexibility and patience a hunter may be able to save a few bucks when planning an African hunt of a lifetime.

Another good example of where flexibility can provide a good dangerous-game experience is with elephant hunting. Elephants can be extremely dangerous to humans. They can be ill-tempered and they will hold a grudge, often charging on first sight or scent. Every year they kill a lot of people, including hunters.

Few survive an attack from the largest land mammal simply because it is so big and powerful. Elephants are creative about how they make you dead. They will crush you with their forehead, rip you apart like a loaf of French bread, impale you with a tusk as big around as a man’s thigh or stomp you into a bloody, muddy pulp.

Hunting is done at close range and often in thick brush. A big bull can weigh more than 6 tons, so there is no rifle on earth that will feel like it’s too big when he is staring you down at 20 yards.
Elephant hunting is often as exciting as hunting can get. But it’s so expensive to hunt a trophy bull that unless you make blockbuster movies, run a Fortune 500 company or got an Obama bailout the odds are you can’t afford the experience.

Sometimes you can find a “problem” elephant, one that has been raiding crops or harassing the locals. If the timing is right you may be able to get a permit to hunt that specific elephant for a much lower price. But this is a hit-or-miss proposition. If you can find one and the timing works, it might be the deal of a lifetime. Once again, working with a good agent and being very flexible can make this happen.

Consider a "Cull" Hunt
Another, more viable, alternative is to book a tuskless elephant hunt. That’s what I did in Zimbabwe. Tuskless elephants are considered to be genetic aberrations and often they are culled from the herd so they will not breed and pass on the “tuskless” genetics.

These are “cull” hunts so you cannot keep any part of the elephant, and you are not allowed to take anything home except photos. But you can keep the memories, which might well be outstanding. Besides, shipping trophies home is extremely expensive, as is taxidermy work, so you save the cost of all that.

Most PHs I know consider hunting tuskless elephants to be among the most dangerous of all big-game hunting. First off, they are almost exclusively cows (although mine was a bull). Generally the bulls are docile, well-tempered critters but the cows are the most dangerous—they’re mean, vicious and in a perpetual state of awareness. They’re the worst. Like the little guy who is trying to make up for being small, the tuskless elephants seem like they are always spoiling for a fight.

While the big trophy bulls are loners or travel in a small groups, the tuskless elephants will be with the herds. The herds are primarily made up of cows and youngsters. You will be required to sneak around all those elephant eyes, ears and long smellers while trying to find a tuskless elephant to shoot. So the end result is that hunting one is probably going to be one of the most adrenaline-filled experiences of your life.

My hunt was all of that. One morning we were chased by a bunch of elephants and barely avoided the need to shoot our way out of trouble. When we reached a clearing and stopped to shoot, we spooked some other elephants. We stopped moving just as they started, and the herd that was intent on stomping us flat mistook their noise for us and went after the other elephants. We slipped out of there as fast and as quietly as we could.

Later, the elephant I shot charged from just 12 yards. My first shot missed the brain and as with the buffalo, it got noisy. After it was over, the tracker pointed at the full auto FNH FAL the game scout carried while he looked at my bolt-action and said, “Your gun shoot faster than his gun!” I guess all that practice paid off.

The great part is that the trophy fees for a tuskless hunt will run about $3,000 to $4,000. That’s a fraction of the trophy fee for a bull elephant. You get everything except the ivory tusks. In fact, you will probably get a more exciting hunting experience than you would with a big bull elephant.
Another less expensive way to include dangerous game on your safari is to hunt hippo or crocodile. Unless you are hunting hippo on dry land, it might not be as exciting as it can get with the other species, but you will hunt the two animals that probably kill more people in Africa every year than all the others combined. There is no doubt that they are dangerous game. They can be challenging in their own way as well. Both can require precision shooting as they share a trait with zombies: “only brain shots count.” The trophy fees are relatively low when compared to other glamour species, and they can easily be added to a safari for other species, allowing you to double-dip.

Make it Happen
One last thought on all this. If the desire to hunt dangerous game in Africa keeps you awake at night, if it’s burning in your belly like a hot coal, find a way. Work overtime, pick up a second job, do whatever it takes, but find a way. While it will seem like an insane amount of money to spend, I promise you after it’s over you will never have a moment of regret about writing the check.

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1 Response to Hunting Africa on a Budget (Page 2)

Wade Murphree wrote:
February 13, 2012

I hunted elephants 25 years ago and managed to stop a charge at 18 paces. It is incomprehensive to me that you stoped a charge from 12 yards. They are'nt slow!